by Desmond Elliott
Water is more valuable than gold. Global Warming is on everyones lips, firmly entrenched in our psyche; engineers and scientists should be focused on the limitations and potential of our planet. Following the Second World War (1950’s) the Snowy Mountain Scheme marked the history books with one of the greatest engineering feats of modern time. For the era, the achievements were nothing short of mind blowing as only the engineers believed this outrageous scheme would succeed. The project surpassed all expectations and has proved to be the life blood of success on the eastern seaboard – adding to the wealth and prosperity of our country supplying potable water, irrigation water and cheap hydro-electricity. There is a similar project sitting in the wings, in a recent desktop study and research it was revealed another major scheme is possible and in waiting.
Australia is a lucky country: minerals, water and some of the best engineers in the world. The United Nations tell us the world population will double in less than fifty years. The need for more food grown efficiently on a large scale is required, a paradigm shift in research and thinking. This scheme will assist us in contributing to the need and will provide Australia with a capacity to balance our budget and provide financial security into the future. In the 1950’s we lived off the sheep’s back, in the 1970-80’s, Agriculture – the golden grain flowed like water from the veins of our parched land. We now lead the world in efficient of rice production, production efficiency at double the global average. Unfortunately, we have our eyes firmly fixed on selling this asset to our neighbours, the Chinese (???). Many see this to be strategically catastrophic in the medium term. We are selling the factory to our clients, however lets not dwell on stupidity. With some innovation this too could be expanded, engineering skills here could provide us with innovation we could capitalised. Adding infrastructure, harnessing more water from the north diverting this to concrete our future as a major rice producer into the future..
Where is the next Snowy Mountain Scheme? Lake Argyle, Western Australia.
More water flows over Lake Argyle earthen wall each month than is contained in the the Lake itself. Lake Argyle is larger than Sydney Harbour, pure unadulterated fresh water. The cost to the country is zero. By harnessing this valuable resource before returns to the sea we win, win, win. There have been several attempts to develop the Kunnanurra basin as a food bowl for WA, doomed to failure because of the transport cost, infrastructure and climate limitations. South Australia can offer more. A pipeline from Lake Argyle to Port Augusta is both feasible and self sustaining. The pipeline faces an uphill climb from Lake Argyle to the SA-NT border but from here the flow is down hill. The nine pumping stations required to lift the water between Lake Argyle and Alice Springs, this will require energy, the pumps would be powered by natural gas turbines from the gas wells, west of Alice Springs. These wells provided a gas supply for Darwin, since the Timor Sea Gas venture, Darwin no longer requires this resource, it sits idle.
Alice Springs has the soil, the the climate, and the railway to provide the life blood for a new food bowl supplying the Northern Territory and exports. The benefits are related to direct international links to the Asia through Darwin via train, ship and air and to Adelaide and the Eastern seaboard.
The project will requires innovative engineering and logistics; some brilliant minds. The geology along the route suggests a subsurface concrete lined tunnel would provide the best pressure vessel at the lowest cost. Evaporation and migrating sand dunes eliminate open channels as a cheaper option. A dual pipeline could be an alternative. The Rail link from Darwin to Alice provides the conduit to bring raw materials from Asia. Indonesia would provide an excellent source of low cost labour, China for steel and other technologies provided cheaply and expediently. Preliminary geology tests indicate cement for concrete lining can be made at the half way point of the two thousand kilometre pipeline, this could provide the lining for pies reducing the freight costs. What better opportunity to show the world that Australia has the leading edge in gas fired electricity production with excess production providing energy for other new industry in the wake. This could attract World Bank venture status, as a humanitarian project. Securing a food source for less privileged countries.
The cost of the project would be similar in scale to the Adelaide to Darwin Railway but with a higher potential for reward. By providing irrigation to grow high value food, wine and cereal production in the centre of Australia the project is self sustaining. Where next you question, a project of this scale opens opportunities and the benefits developing industries exponentially. The pipeline extension to Port Augusta could provide an additional 1-2 Gigalitres of water/day for development of a second food bowl across the the Flinders Ranges in the Wilmington – Melrose area. This provides the setting for a new oasis in South Australia.
This project has been kicked around the back office by engineers for many years. It is time to act, with the cost of water rising as the rainfall slowly moves northward we should be considering our future now. If there is interest in our rice bowl now, what of the future. Careful planning now secures this valuable resource for future generations and our future prosperity. A venture of this size would take 10-20 years in the planning, we must start thinking and planning now to take full advantage of this opportunity.
The right time is now to secure a few onces of Gold for all Australians, especially our grandchildren!
Please note: The views and opinions expressed above are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher; www.theissue.com.au